Portuguese Club celebrating birthday

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Portuguese Club is turning 80 this month and members plan on celebrating the birthday.

The Clube Uniao Portuguesa is holding a celebration this weekend to mark the club’s 80th birthday. Dinner and dancing is planned for May 14 at the club, 110 Rubber Ave., and a Mass in honor of all past and present members is May 15 at 11:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Baldwin Street in Waterbury.

“It’s our 80th anniversary. We are going to have a great time and good food. We are going to be honoring all the past presidents of the club and past presidents of the ladies auxiliary. We hope that everybody will come and join us,” club member Frances Branco said.

The club was officially formed in March 1936 by borough residents who emigrated from Portugal. The newly formed club began holding meetings at a building on Church Street.

“Their families were in Portugal and they wanted to get together with each other,” Branco said.

By 1950, the club had outgrown the space on Church Street and purchased an old schoolhouse at 110 Rubber Ave. for $15,000, Branco said.

That was the same year the club began hosting its Sao Paio Festival.

The festival was started by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Portuguese Club to celebrate their Portuguese heritage, Branco said.

“A group of ladies got together and decided to bring a little bit of Portugal to the borough,” Branco said.

The festival has become an annual borough-wide tradition, which includes a 5K race, soccer tournaments, and an honorary Portuguese mayor of the day.

Two decades after buying the old schoolhouse, the premises proved to be too small. In 1971, the schoolhouse was demolished and the club began constructing a new building, Branco said.

The building, which still serves as the club’s home today, was finished in May 1972, she said.

“We have been in Naugatuck since 1936. We are proud of being part of this community, serving the Portuguese people and Naugatuck community in general. All are welcome to come to our club,” Branco said.

The celebration dinner begins at 7 p.m. at the club with dancing and appetizers. Tickets are $60 for people 13 years old and older, $30 for children 6 to 12 years old, and free for children 5 and younger. Tickets can be purchased by calling the club at 203-729-6894 or Branco at 203-729-1211.

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